Clinton Calls for Crane Safety Regulations

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling on the Bush Administration to issue new safety standards for cranes and derricks and questioned why the administration has failed to update these regulations. In a letter to Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin Foulke, Clinton underscored that current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards for cranes and derricks were written in 1971, and that an OSHA advisory committee recommended updated regulations in 2004 that have yet to be put in place.

In the May 30 letter to Foulke, she called the most recent crane collapse in New York City “the latest in a disturbing pattern of tragic crane accidents across the nation in recent months.” In the letter, she calls on Foulke to issue the safety standards for cranes and derricks.

The current OSHA safety standards for cranes and derricks were written in 1971. Crane technology has changed in numerous ways in the last 37 years, and many of the current standards are now obsolete. In July 2004, a 23-member industry and union OSHA advisory committee issued a recommendation that OSHA update its antiquated and outdated standards on crane and derrick safety. The committee even proposed a revised standard, including specific rules on crane assembly. But almost four years after the advisory committee made its proposal, OSHA has failed to promulgate a proposed rule.

“This delay is inexplicable and inexcusable,” Clinton wrote. “Casualties due to crane accidents are occurring at an alarming rate. According to industry experts, a crane is by far the most dangerous piece of equipment on a construction site. Industry and labor leaders have joined together to propose an updated set of standards and are urging their adoption. Under these circumstances, four years is more than enough time to issue standards designed to prevent more needless deaths and injuries.”

According to one analysis, there were 176 deaths due to crane accidents last year, an increase from 74 in 2000. In addition to the most recent fatalities in New York City, an 800-ton crane collapsed in Missouri recently, killing one worker and injuring three others. A crane operator was recently killed in Iowa when his crane tipped over and plunged through a bridge deck. And in March, six workers and a tourist were killed and 24 more were injured when a 300-foot-tall crane collapsed in Manhattan.